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Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

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Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby Cheiromancer » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:55 pm

I came across an entertaining and informative blog post while searching for information on how Devine & Stephens "The Prosody of Greek Speech" could actually be used. Enjoy!

http://blogicarian.blogspot.ca/2012/10/ ... ssics.html

note: some of the Greek words for which he gives sample pronunciations are the sort of words that dictionaries used to only translate into Latin, not English.
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby jeidsath » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:07 pm

Taking the authenticity argument to its logical extreme, even if we had better information about how male and female speech differed in 5th century Attic, would anyone seriously then contemplate having female classics students be taught a different pronunciation from males, all for authenticity's sake?


This is why you don't want to learn Japanese from (just) your girlfriend.

I imagine that, were such a thing possible (and it is not), many females classics learners might elect to sound more like female Attic Greek speakers than like male Attic Greek speakers. I know that it's strange, but women often respect and admire other females, and have bizarre attractions to characteristically female interests more often than they do to characteristically male interests.

The blog entry was very good when he stuck to technical details, though he is summarizing others for the best parts. But the writer needs to spend more with the ancients. He gets excited about all the things that moderns get excited about (dirty words, etc.), and gets offended at all the things that moderns are taught to be offended by (slights against democratically powerful voting blocs). He has perception without inhibition to match it.
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby Cheiromancer » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:04 pm

jeidsath wrote:The blog entry was very good when he stuck to technical details, though he is summarizing others for the best parts.

What did you think of the audio? The first dialogue was his take on the pitch accent of Attic Greek. I found it well within the range of the normal prosody of an English speaker - it didn't sound sing-song or artificial at all.

I'd like to try to match it. If I can keep track of your vowel quantities, accents on the penultimate or antepenultimate syllables should take care of themselves. If a Greek word has an accented antepenult, you know that it is an acute accent; if it has an accented penult and the last syllable is short, you know it is a circumflex. Conversely, if the rising and falling tone of the voice is correct, people would be able to resolve many ambiguities with vowel quantity based on the accentual rules.

The big problem is when the last syllable of a word is accented. As I mentioned in my comment on Foreman's post, I'm trying to figure out how to differentiate, say, φῶς "man" and φώς "light". edit: oops! It's the other way around. φῶς is light, and φώς is a poetic way of saying "man". Thanks, Paul, for the correction. Or to make γαλῆν ὁρῶ "I see a weasel" sound distinctly different from γαλήν' ὁρῶ "I see a calm".

(Incidentally, my Abridged Liddell & Scott says the poetic term for 'man' is φώς with an acute accent. Be that as it may, I'd still like to be able to pronounce the two words differently.)
Last edited by Cheiromancer on Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:44 pm

Cheiromancer wrote:The big problem is when the last syllable of a word is accented. As I mentioned in my comment on Foreman's post, I'm trying to figure out how to differentiate, say, φῶς "man" and φώς "light".

It's the other way round. φῶς (light) is a contraction fom φάος
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby Cheiromancer » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:17 pm

I had a thought about γαλήν' ὁρῶ "I see a calm" and γαλῆν ὁρῶ "I see a weasel". γαλήνη is a 1st declension noun, with accusative singular γαλήνην. Hegelochus should have said γαλήνην ὁρῶ. If he drops the whole last syllable of γαλήνην he is no longer pronouncing a real word, but he is saying something that is very close to γαλῆν.

In other words, the point is not that γαλῆν ὁρῶ and γαλήν' ὁρῶ are so clearly distinct that an audience will laugh at you if you mix them up. The point is that γαλήν' ὁρῶ sounds more like γαλῆν ὁρῶ than it sounds like γαλήνην ὁρῶ.

Does this sound right?
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby cb » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:58 pm

hi, no the joke is about the accent. the word in the euripides line was the neut acc pl of γαληνός (not from γαλήνη), which had the accent moved back to the penult in the usual way when the alpha was elided. everyone cracked up because he bended the vowel down during the syllable. i personally don't find anything unbelievable about this story, when people get the accents wrong in modern languages it leaps out at you and sticks in your head, like someone getting a note wrong in music even if you're not musical yourself. cheers, chad
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby cb » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:15 pm

...and to answer your question as to how to differentiate φῶς and φώς, the first one bends down a lot, the second one bends up slightly. think of the last line of stairway to heaven by led zeppelin, "and she's buying the stairway to heaven". maybe youtube it if you're too young! well the vowel in φῶς bends down like the first syllable of "buying", whereas φώς bends up a bit like "and she's". of course it's normal speech and so it wouldn't step cleanly from tone to tone like in song, it would bend, but this shows the difference in the shape of the bend. i use a 7-tone system (which came when i modelled the evidence from d&s) with tone 1 being the highest. φῶς bends down from say tone 2 to tone 5, whereas φώς bends up one tone, say from tone 3 to tone 2. this is the case whether it's an acute or a grave (i.e. whether it's followed by a non-enclitic word in the same phrase).

in the end it doesn't matter what pronunciation system you use i think, as long as you're consistent and in addition if you need to speak to teachers or students etc it would make sense to use the same system. i use reconstructed, but i don't think it's necessarily better than using modern or stress-based systems or whatever, it's just what i wanted to use personally. whatever works. cheers, chad
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby Cheiromancer » Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:36 am

cb has given me permission to post a private message discussing the pitch profile of γαλῆν ὁρῶ versus γαλήν' ὁρῶ.

cb wrote: ...if you use a 7-pitch system as an e.g., with pitch 1 highest, then:

γαλῆν ὁρῶ
γα would have say pitch 3
λῆν would have pitch 2 for the 1st half of the syllable and pitch 5 for the 2nd half of the syllable (bending down)
ὁ would have pitch 4
ρῶ would have pitch 3 for the 1st half of the syllable and pitch 5 for the 2nd half of the syllable (bending down)

γαλήν' ὁρῶ
γα would have say pitch 4
λῆν would have pitch 3 for the 1st half of the syllable and pitch 2 for the 2nd half of the syllable
ὁ would have pitch 4
ρῶ would have pitch 3 for the 1st half of the syllable and pitch 5 for the 2nd half of the syllable (bending down)

hope that makes sense! might be good to chart it on paper to see the difference.


I find all this awfully hard to figure out. On the one hand, I have trouble hearing the pitch difference without exaggerating or 'singing' it. On the other hand, I don't want to exaggerate the pitch differences into a parody of Ancient Greek. It would be easier if I could relate it more to normal English prosody.
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby cb » Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:08 pm

hi, when you take a step back you realise it's not that complex because there is essentially one basic pattern repeated over and over, which stretches over a word group (which includes articles, prepositions, grave-accented words before the word and enclitics after the word) - the pitch moves up progressively in small steps syllable-by-syllable through articles, proclitics, prepositions and grave-accented words, and then after the pitch peak (ie the last beat of an acute-accented vowel or the first beat of a circumflex-accented vowel) there's a sharp drop to the next beat, then after that a steady drop of small steps down in pitch sylalble-by-syllable to the end of the word + any enclitics, and then the process repeats. that's the pattern that repeats over and over - up then down, up then down.

the height of the pitch peak gets progressively lower throughout a sentence, this is called catathesis. i showed this in the pitch numbers i did for the phrases above - each word forms a word group (because there are no articles, prepositions, grave accented words or enclitics around them) and the first one therefore goes up to pitch 2, and the second only goes up to pitch 3. sometimes it's higher, like in people's names (which i do up to pitch 1, ie the top pitch). each of these pitches are relative, i came up with them by modelling all of the relative pitches analysed from the data by d&s, and this produced 7 tones total when the relative pitch differences were all set side by side.

the changing of the pitch of the pitch peaks in a sentence just moves up and down the pitch range of the pattern - the pattern stays the same basically, and so that's why i said it's not that complex when you see the whole curve, repeated over and over with slight variations.

i think it actually sounds quite natural -- not at all an artificial language -- if you do one thing that i never hear anyone do on the online recordings -- speak at a normal human speed, ie what beginners/intermediates in every language class on earth would say "that's way too fast", as i used to say in intermediate french class before moving over to paris, and now anything less than the normal pace in normal conversation (what i would have thought way too fast before for any human being to understand) sounds artificial. one of these days i'll record something and put it online (just for a point of comparison, not as a model to follow). cheers, chad
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Re: Pronouncing Ancient Greek (Blog Post)

Postby ariphron » Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:55 pm

cb wrote:hi, when you take a step back you realise it's not that complex because there is essentially one basic pattern repeated over and over, which stretches over a word group (which includes articles, prepositions, grave-accented words before the word and enclitics after the word) - the pitch moves up progressively in small steps syllable-by-syllable through articles, proclitics, prepositions and grave-accented words, and then after the pitch peak (ie the last beat of an acute-accented vowel or the first beat of a circumflex-accented vowel) there's a sharp drop to the next beat, then after that a steady drop of small steps down in pitch sylalble-by-syllable to the end of the word + any enclitics, and then the process repeats.


This certainly describes the way I try to read, except that I allow the peak to occur in a noun even if it is grave-accented. I then put the pitch peak on the penult. I also do some stair-stepping on the rise: a step upward not at every new syllable but at every new morpheme, with grave-accented particles at a lower pitch than the line of proclitics, articles, prefixes, and augments to the root. (I've got a sample of my reading at https://archive.org/details/White_FGB)
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